We partnered with Outside magazine to share essays from reporters dispatched to the ends of the earth. In some cases, isolation fosters a culture that's somehow surprisingly familiar; in others, however, these societies may be anachronistic or even dangerous. Outside has made all four selections available to read online for free.
An Impossible Place to Be
By Ben Ryder Howe
Sept 1, 2004
Located on the border of South and Central America, the 10,000-square miles comprising the Darién Gap is an impenetrable expanse of jungle blocking overland travel between North and South America. Despite (or, perhaps, because of) its challenges, the gap attracts a certain type of person. The gap shields an estimated population of 100,000 refugees and remote villagers, as well as poachers and paramilitary groups who use the deep cover for their own nefarious purposes. But the gap is shrinking, whittled away by cattle ranchers and farmers in search of new land. And as it shrinks, some worry that South America loses an important check against North American diseases and influence.
By Kevin Fedarko
June 29, 2007
Until the first ascent in 1953, Everest was thought to be an insurmountable challenge. Now hundreds of climbers from the world over scale its summit each year, creating traffic that has turned the once-austere Everest base camp into something Fedarko calls the "Himalayan version of Burning Man." In the shadow of the world's highest peak, one that still kills one climber for every ten that successfully reach the top, the impulse, it seems, is to party.
A Mountain of Trouble
By Joshua Hammer
April 21, 2010
Fewer backpacking spots on earth are more removed than the mountains of Kurdistan in Iraq. The spot is near to the Iraqi-Iranian border, and the isolation doesn't make for clear demarkations. That proved a problem for three American citizens who were arrested and jailed after they strayed into Iranian territory, pawns in an international grudge match. Hammer retraces their steps and finds out how quickly idealism can dangerously border on naiveté in an unfamiliar land.
The Whale Hunters
By Sebastian Junger
October 1, 1995
On the small Carribbean island of Bequia, Junger visits the last of the local whale hunters, a man named Athneal Ollivierre. While whaling was once a fixture of island life, international moratoriums have reduced the island’s take and tourism has supplanted its importance to the local economy. Ollivierre's son shows little interest in learning his father's trade, which means that when Ollivierre dies, so does his craft.
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